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Toward a connected history of planning in Arab cities

During my next visit to Kuwait, I will be presenting the chapter “Planning histories in tha Arab World” Joe Nasr and I wrote in the Routledge Handbook Planning History at CEFAS on the 22nd of April.

Over the past century and a half, most accounts of cities of the Arab world have viewed them
through the lens of an organically built urban fabric, understood as an Islamic heritage, an
expression of a collective and religious ethos. Planning, as a professionally conceived endeavor
aiming at structuring changes in cities, was perceived as almost nonexistent in this world region.
However, recent scholarship (primarily in French and English), based on case-studies dealing
mostly with the principal cities in the region, has shown that extensive planning over many
decades has marked cities across the Arab world, from cutting arteries through existing built
fabric to laying out infrastructure and neighborhoods at the urban edge. This scholarship has
identified some unifying trends, including the model of spectacular urbanism that emerged from the Gulf region thanks to the circuits of oil money and the rise of a new political order, spreading to the rest of the region and beyond (Elsheshtawy 2008). Drawing on this historiography, this talk proposes five threads that posit planning as a central, but contested, practice in the making of Arab cities: 1) Planning, state building, and elite affirmation. 2) Tension between modernization and preservation. 3) A connected and networked history. 4) Planning cultures and roles of “planners.” 5) Planning and ordinary citizens.

This conference draws from the recent chapter co-written with Joe Nasr: Éric Verdeil, Joe Nasr.
Planning Histories in the Arab World“, in Carola Hein (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Planning
History, Routledge, pp.271-285, 2017. (Do not hesitate to ask for a PDF of the text)